Friday, January 17, 2014


What happens if your protagonist DOESN’T get what/she wants? What’s the worst case scenario? In most Action/Adventure movies the stakes are Physical and Life/Death. (If The Avengers don’t succeed, the Earth will be destroyed!)

In Comedies and Romantic Comedies, the stakes are usually more personal. 

In Annie Hall, the stakes are Alvy and Annie’s relationship. In The Hangover, they need to find Doug or otherwise they have destroyed his wedding.) As for smaller stories, the stakes must be intensely personal. (In The Wrestler, being a Wrestler is The Ram’s entire life. We see how uncomfortable and out of place he is outside of that world over and over again, so we know how much he needs to be a Wrestler, even if his body wouldn’t allow him.

It should also be noted that interweaving Personal and Physical stakes together can yield great results. 

Taken is an action/thriller with very personal stakes: If Liam Neeson can’t rescue his daughter, she will be raped and killed. On the other hand, The King’s Speech is a small drama that heightens its Personal Stakes to Life/Death stakes. If King George can’t overcome his speech impediment and bolster his countrymen’s spirits, then England will fall to the Nazi’s.

You also want Stakes to get bigger/more personal as the movie goes on. 

In The King’s Speech George is crowned King, making everything more important all of a sudden. Inversely, in Aliens, the Life/Death stakes are compounded by the fact that Ripley and Newt have built up a personal connection throughout the movie and, in the climactic scene, Ripley has to save Newt from The Queen.

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